Guiding Principles

At The Chris Atwood Foundation we believe: 

 

  • Recovery is possible. There are 23 million Americans from all walks of life living in long-term recovery. No matter how dark your road has been, there is always hope. 

 

  • There should be nothing about us without us. People in recovery and people who use drugs have unique experiences and expertise and must be significantly involved in driving all policies and conversations about their lives and health.

 

  • People who use drugs have a right to health and dignity. People who use drugs are valuable members of the community. It does not matter what they do or do not put in their bodies. They have a right to make informed decisions about their health.

 

  • Compassion, love, and connection not only change but save lives. We believe that human connection is the most powerful healing force and that supportive relationships lead to better outcomes. 

 

  • Family recovery education and care is critical. Whether biological or chosen, family members are our strongest bonds. Through education, support, and resources, those connections can be harnessed to become a powerful force to improve the health and lives of both individuals and the whole family.  

 

  • Stigma kills. Judgement is our greatest enemy. Shame keeps people silent, marginalized, and deprived of the resources and education they need to make positive changes in their lives. 

 

  • Harm reduction and recovery work better together than apart. There is a tendency for people and organizations to separate into “camps:” recovery organizations vs. harm reduction organizations, abstinence-based recovery vs. recovery with medications, etc. This has resulted in harmful gaps in systems of care that need not exist and through which lives are lost. It has resulted in people who seek help being rejected because they don’t fit a certain mold or criteria. Harm reduction is the process of an individual making any positive change that improves their health and reduces the harms caused by substance use. Recovery is the process of an individual improving their health and wellness, living a self-directed life, and striving to reach their full potential. We believe they are complementary philosophies addressing the same issue.

 

  • Medications to treat addiction save lives. The evidence shows that medication for opioid use disorder reduces all-cause mortality rates by 50%. Saving a life is, and will always be, more important than promoting one approach to wellness over another.

 

  • Language matters. The way we speak about substance use, people who use, and people in recovery has a real impact on health outcomes. Harvard University research studies have shown that using different terms to refer to patients (i.e. saying “a person who uses drugs” instead of “an addict”) has been proven to influence the type and quality of care given by behavioral healthcare providers, with stigmatizing terms resulting in more punitive actions. If words can so significantly influence trained medical providers, we can be sure they also impact the general public. Consult the The Addictionary  A glossary of stigma-producing words associated with substance use disorder, why they are stigmatizing, and what to use instead. 

  • There are many pathways to recovery. Substance use, just like the human brain, is complex. There are no “one size fits all” policies, approaches, or philosophies. 

 

  • Addiction is a disease, not a choice.  We know that in addiction, chemical and structural changes take place that cause the part of the brain where our survival instincts live to “learn” that certain substances are necessary for survival - just like food and water. Individuals and families struggling with this disease deserve support and treatment options rooted in compassion and understanding, not shame or punishment. 

 

  • Social inequalities play a role in substance use. While we know that addiction is a disease, it’s important to note that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination, and other social inequalities affect people’s vulnerability to, and capacity for, effectively dealing with addiction and drug-related harm. We commit to doing our part to address these and other disparities that negatively impact the people we serve.

THE CHRIS ATWOOD FOUNDATION

info@thecaf.org

PO Box 9282 Reston, Virginia 20195

703.662.6076

For TTY: Dial 711, then 703.662.6076

©2021 by The Chris Atwood Foundation.